For much of her life, there was a duality of interests with Cara. She was drawn to the sciences and there was even a time she wanted to become a doctor. She decided to take a different path when she realized she hated dissecting little critters—a deal-breaker for sure. She then turned to her other love—the arts. Cara graduated with honors as a Fine Arts Major from Agnes College. Had she been able to peek into her future, she would have seen both passions converging.
After getting her degree, it was the art galleries in Asheville that called her to move here. Like many new graduates, Cara wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do next. She looked for work at local galleries and considered becoming a curator someday. Eventually, she landed a position as co-manager at Mud Hunter, a local pottery gallery.
It was here her boss and Mud Hunter owner, Mary Helen Horan, mentioned being interested in finding a hand cream that would help potters’ hands—which become extremely dry when working with clay all the time. Horan could not find anything she liked for this purpose, so she asked Cara if she was interested in creating this lotion and offered Cara a small loan to get her started.
Cara was intrigued with the idea and quickly accepted the challenge, knowing all too well about dealing with dry hands. Cara’s mom is a nurse and suffered regularly from severely cracked hands. If you’re like me, you too can appreciate this chronic condition that may seem minor, but can really be frustrating and painful.
A Science Experiment
Cara approached her quest for the perfect lotion like a good scientist. She gathered data about what lotions worked best for her friends, family, and from Mud Hunter’s customers. She wanted something that would nourish with rich botanical oils–not just moisturize. And of course, everyone agreed it couldn’t be greasy.
Cara had soon accumulated quite a list of lotions that worked for people. Other than a variety of ingredients she couldn’t pronounce, she noticed a lack of nourishing botanical oils in these popular drugstore lotions. So Cara decided to base her formula on rich ingredients like shea butter, kokum butter, and aloe, and scent them only with pure essential oils. It was then she went to work.
In the back studio at Mud Hunter, she began combining elements in varying proportions in a large bowl. She began her “trials” on Horan, her friends, and of course, her mom. She experimented with a few oils, and eventually settled on tangerine and lavender—two scents that were popular with her prospective customers.
When I asked her about the expectations she‘d had when she started, Cara could only imagine making the cream for her friends and family as gifts. But within a short period of time, she discovered the blessings and the challenges of having her own business.
Soon, she learned how to brand her product, create a web site, and how to get to market. I first met Cara when we both were participants in the Fundamentals class at Mountain BizWorks. Cara would later reflect how she wished she had taken the class earlier—because she found it invaluable.
After trying her hand cream, I was immediately “sold.” I loved the fragrance and the way it worked on my hands—soft and definitely non-greasy. I bought several jars for myself (to keep in convenient places in my home and car) and for gifts. I can attest that (after trying many products that were ineffective) since I have started using her hand cream, I no longer experience any cracks in my fingers during the winter months.
Cara was surprised how much she enjoys the community of other small business owners. One of the things about being a business owner is that it’s never boring. Owning your own business means the sky’s the limit—there is no ceiling. You can make it what you want it to be. And people in Asheville are so willing to help each other.
She occasionally seeks out a sounding board for prioritizing her goals and talking through her creative ideas. She has gone back to Mountain BizWorks where she utilizes their GO program. With her coach, Helaine Green, she receives individual guidance regarding her goals and an opportunity to brainstorm new ideas with someone.
But her learning has not stopped with just her business. Cara realizes that she has increased her personal confidence and discovered the power of one person. She recently held a benefit party to help the earthquake victims from Haiti. She was pleased how the Asheville community rallied together and she was able to raise three thousand dollars, which was doubled by a generous donor and then contributed to the Red Cross Haiti Fund. She loves giving back to a community that has given so much to her.
Eventually, Cara would like her business to completely support her as well as providing opportunities for others in our community. Until that time, like many new entrepreneurs, she works part-time to manage her expenses—little luxuries like food and housing (ha ha).
She markets her product via spas, galleries, and local festivals such as Big Love and Big Crafty. She has a great deal of pride when she connects with her customers and hears how her product has made a difference in their lives.
Cara would love to create a body lotion—something just as nourishing to the skin as her hand cream, but lighter and meant to cover a larger portion of the body. She also plans to add an airport-size tube that tourists could take home in their carry-on bags.
As a small business owner myself, I quickly learned you do not arrive. There are always changes you are making or planning to make. One suggestion I made to Cara was to consider writing more of her story on her web site about how her products were developed. I love her story and it’s a way to connect with potential new customers. I would love to see some testimonials from satisfied customers—like me—who simply love her hand cream!
When I was talking with Cara, I immediately pictured her making a pitch to Whole Foods. I visualized mass production. I saw her products on shelves and in lots of specialty shops around the country (or world). Although Cara would love to be written up in the Style Section of the NY Times, she is more inclined to grow her product organically—through word of mouth. She loves the Asheville community and appreciates being with others who are doing what they love.
Going bigger definitely results in a whole new ballgame. No longer could she create her cream in her home, and would need to develop a business plan for extensive growth. As a big supporter, I can’t wait for the day her products take off. Check out her web site for more information and to find locations where her product is being sold: www.caramianaturals.com
Jane Falter is an Encore Career Coach who specializes in supporting mid-life adults to identify and achieve what’s next for them—whether starting their own business or changing jobs or careers. Jane has recently earned her ACRW (Academy Certified Resume Writers) diploma—a prestigious designation among resume writers. Follow Jane on Twitter or LinkedIn. Sign up for Jane’s monthly newsletter on her web site at www.JaneFalter.com or for more information about her services.